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Marine Fire Systems
Protect your crew, cargo and vessels. Coltraco Ultrasonics proudly work across the maritime industry with ship owners, ship managers as well as marine surveyors, ports, shipyards and classification societies. As of 2020, with over 30 years’ experience working in the maritime industry, 17% of the world fleet use Coltraco Ultrasonics technology. We welcome you to get in touch to discuss how we can help you improve your bottle level testing onboard your vessel.
Marine Servicing Systems
It’s important for marine servicing companies to bid to service a ships CO2 system as this can comprise 200 - 600, 45kg CO2 Cylinders per ship. These cylinders are under 720psi or 49 bars of pressure. They can discharge accidentally or be subject to slow seepage. Some marine service companies estimate that at one time 20% of a ship's CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents and there are over 55,000 commercial vessels at sea at any time. Servicing is often carried out at sea, and the ship may only be available to the contractor for a couple of hours. The usual is one component of a CO2 system inspection, these marine service crews shut down the CO2 system, dismantle it and weigh each cylinder. On average each cylinder will take 40 minutes to dismantle, weigh, record and reinstall, meaning that it would take 400 man-hours to achieve that on a 600 cylinder marine installation.
Marine Fire Suppression Testing
Using a type-approved ultrasonic liquid level indicator, a perfect condition cylinder can be checked for contents in 30 seconds; the average time to record and validate readings should take 1-3 minutes per properly-filled cylinder. This still equates to 10 to 30 perfect man-hours for this task alone. Too many times, therefore, good marine servicing companies may not have the minimum amount of time required to perform the inspection. Testing is important: because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, an extremely narrow safety margin exists for these systems. Given the risk and the difficulties of manual inspection, it seems unfathomable then that these systems are not permanently monitored rather than leaving them to stand alone unsupervised 364 days a year until their annual certification.
Fire Cylinder Suppression Testing
Fire suppression testing and fixed fire extinguisher testing equipment is used to test whether a fixed fire extinguisher is correctly working and the level of the fire extinguisher inside the extinguisher. Extinguisher testing includes water, foam, powder, gases and CO2 extinguishers. Fixed Fire Suppression Systems & Automatic Fire Suppression Systems control and extinguish fires in buildings without human intervention. Automatic Fire Suppression Systems fall into two categories: engineered and pre-engineered systems. Fire Suppression Systems can use a variety of extinguishing agents depending on the assets it is designed to protect.
Importance of Servicing a CO2 Gaseous Fire Extinguisher
A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their contents checking. IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 220.127.116.11 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.” Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 bottles have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled. According to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea in the last decade were caused by a fire on board. Therefore, the verification of contents is key and ultrasonic liquid level measurement is a quick and simple method to do so. These maintenance checks should be carried out on a monthly basis inspections are required to be conducted by the Ship between these events under 4.2 (Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems) of MSC.1/Circ.1318 IMO Guidelines for the Maintenance and Inspection of Fixed Carbon Dioxide Systems. These checks should include:
- Verify containers/cylinders fitted with pressure gauges are in the proper range and the inspection free from leakage
- The proper range usefully determined under ISO 14520-1 : 2015 Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems
- Checking for 5% loss of contents or checking the charge is at 95% - are the same
A cylinder can only be determined as free from leakage and within the proper range is by checking its contents – either by weighing or by ultrasonic fill level sensor. For good reason a crew is not qualified or certified to dismantle, weigh and re-install high pressure CO2 systems which by definition in a dynamic not static state Disturbing pressurised CO2 systems is dangerous and the reason why only an Accredited Service Agent can shutdown, dismantle, weigh (for contents) and re-install a High-Pressure fire extinguisher system and its cylinders. The only way, therefore, that a ship can meet its obligations to conduct that element of the monthly inspection is to check the cylinder contents safely and accurately with an ultrasonic level sensor.
Fire Extinguishing Safety Systems
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishing systems have been extensively used since the 1930s for shipboard machinery-space protection. Halon 1301 has been a widely accepted substitute since the 1960s, especially for the protection of engine compartments. Halon 1301 is efficient in suppressing fires, has low toxicity, low chemical reactivity, is not conducted by electricity and is stable when stored long term. However, because of its negative impacts on the ozone layer, production was halted in the 1990s.
The result was that most manufacturers reverted to carbon dioxide (despite the risk of asphyxiation) for large new ship builds. Clean agents, such FM-200® / FE - 227™, which extinguishes fire primarily by physical means but also by some chemical means, inert gases (nitrogen, argon and other gas mixtures) which extinguish a fire by oxygen reduction and HCFC blends such as NAFS-Illforsmaller vessels were adopted progressively.
These clean fire protection agents preserve the desirable properties of Halon 1301—
highly efficient, low toxicity, low chemical reactivity, electrical non-conductivity, and high stability—and also have almost no impact on the environment. These properties, along with rapid detection and how quickly they work, make these agents excellent choices to protect marine vessels.
How Does Marine Ultrasonic Technology Work?
Ultrasonic sensors work by sending sound waves that echo off of a target and return to the transmitter. The term ultrasonic means above human hearing, or any sound wave above 20 kHz. This method is quite accurate, and we’ve developed a line of sensors with an accuracy of 0.25% of the detected range.
Because the speed of sound is a constant, under fixed atmospheric conditions, the time from the sound burst to the return is measured and translated into a distance. The sensor’s microprocessor calculates the distance and converts it to a level indication, volume measurement, or a rate of flow. It also compensates for temperature and filters the signal.
Common uses for ultrasonic level sensors are level, volume, and flow monitoring. Other uses include presence or absence detection, and object dimensions.
Ultrasonic level sensors are typically quite small, low maintenance, and easy to ship and install. Each of our ultrasonic sensors has a microprocessor, which allows for more advanced control. In addition, they do not come in contact with the target substance, which avoids build-up and damage.
Ultrasonic sensors require an unobstructed air column between the sensor and the target. Anything that reflects or absorbs the signal, or acts as a false surface, may cause erroneous readings. This can result from physical obstructions, excessive foam, heavy vapors, thick dust, and light powders.
A stilling pipe can be used to contain or guide the signal around obstructions, or to lessen surface foam. A more powerful sensor can also be used to strengthen the signal. However, our continuous float level transmitters, submersible pressure transducers, or level switches may be best in these scenarios.
Why Choose Coltraco UltraSonics for Marine Fire Safety?
At Coltraco our mission is to help you deliver the Safesite and Safeship of your company. This means we aim to improve safety for people, assets and infrastructure on land and at sea worldwide across diverse sectors. We do this through our products which focus on liquid level indication, seal integrity, thickness gauging, flow rate monitoring and bearing indication. Saving maritime companies time, risk and money: an accurate, reliable and easy to use package, for any crew members to use. With this package the hatch-covers, doors, MCTs, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. The product range is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud to award for Safety at Sea and Innovation for the products in the FLEETSAFE® range.
For Marine Fire UK, Choose Coltraco UltraSonic Technology
As a professional and recognised leading ultrasonic technology company, based in the UK we have an outstanding track record of delivery the highest quality inspections locally and worldwide. For the last 30 years we designed handheld, reliable, accurate portable inspection products. In 2020 after listening to our customers we will move to constant monitoring systems. Therefore, should you be searching for ‘Ultrasonic Technology’, be sure to call our team at Coltraco and see how our team can help you today.
What is a fixed CO2?
Fires on board ships are not rare events. In fact, fire remains the 2nd principal reason for the loss of ships at sea. When at sea, the crew is required to become firefighters in a fire event, yet this is not their primary role onboard. Ships tend to use fixed CO2 fire suppression systems because it is effective, and CO2 is a cheap agent. Therefore, often contents verification of the CO2 systems is treated as a tick-box exercise.
Why is it important to conduct servicing of marine CO2 fixed gaseous fire extinguishing systems?
A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure.
Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their contents checking.
IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 18.104.22.168 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”
Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 bottles have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.
According to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea in the last decade were caused by a fire on board. Therefore, the verification of contents is key and ultrasonic liquid level measurement is a quick and simple method to do so.
Why is there a lack of proper testing of CO2 system?
Most marine servicing companies only have four hours on a vessel in a port for contents verification for CO2 containers to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shut down, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in four hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the marine CO2 system is certified and a certificate is issued.
Why invest in CO2 Fixed Fire Fighting System Maintenance?
- CO2 is stored under high pressure. This means the agent can leak out the cylinder or accidentally discharge. If it leaks there may be insufficient agents to put out a fire event (scientifically speaking this means “below their design concentration”). So it is important to test the cylinders to ascertain the CO2 leak levels.
- Traditionally testing fire suppression systems has been ascertained by manual weighing which requires the system to be switched off, and thus not protecting the ship for the duration of inspection, then each cylinder has to be dismantled from the manifold, requiring two people to carry the cylinder (45KG CO2 fill usually) onto a weigh scale then returned and recoupled, etc which can 15 minutes.
- Today you can use portable ultrasonic gas level indicator, Portalevel® MAX, to check the fill level of the agent takes one person and just 30 seconds. If weight is still the preferred result, a calculator can be added to the test kit to convert the level to weight in 30 seconds by an intuitive tablet app, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR.
- This is a key part of a fire suppression system ITM.
How often do CO2 tanks need to be tested?
Monthly Testing and Inspections are required to be conducted by the Ship between these events under 4.2 (Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems) of MSC.1/Circ.1318 IMO Guidelines for the Maintenance and Inspection of Fixed Carbon Dioxide Systems
- Verify containers/cylinders fitted with pressure gauges are in the proper range and the inspection free from leakage
- The only way to determine a cylinder is free from leakage is cylinder contents verification
- The proper range usefully determined under ISO 14520-1 : 2015 Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems (for clean agents such as FM-200® or NOVEC™ 1230) as 5% loss of agent contents and 10% loss of pressure and under ISO 6183:2009(E) Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems 10% loss of mass
Checking for 5% loss of contents or checking the charge is at 95% - are the same
- A cylinder can only be determined as free from leakage and within the proper range is by checking its contents – either by weighing or by ultrasonic fill level sensor
- For good reason, a crew is not qualified or certified to dismantle, weigh and re-install high-pressure CO2 systems which by definition in a dynamic not static state
- Disturbing pressurised CO2 systems is dangerous and the reason why only an Accredited Service Agent can shutdown, dismantle, weigh (for contents) and re-install a High-Pressure fire extinguisher system and its cylinders
- The only way, therefore, that a ship can meet its obligations to conduct that element of the monthly inspection is to check the cylinder contents safely and accurately with an ultrasonic level sensor
How can you tell how much gas is in a cylinder?
Using a marine tank level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely undertake periodic testing of containers without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® gas level indicator gauge, as radioactive units were being phased out. Now, Coltraco have a range of liquid level measurement devices.
If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using CO2 system checker and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then vessels would be far safer.
How can I test multi-banked cylinders?
Marine CO2 Fire Suppression systems are almost always stored in two, three or four rows deep. As such, marine level testers comes with a dedicated extension arm, allowing the operators to reach through and easily test the rear rows of cylinders.
How do you use a CO2 indicator?
The Portalevel® gas level indicator is an easy tool for testing CO2 systems and contents inspection.
- Place level sensor at the top of the container, on the flat surface below the neck and the top dome.
- Move ultrasonic sensor down the container in small steps & observe readings. In the region with higher readings press CAL (full bar graph).
- Observing the bar graph, move sensor in small steps to the region with low readings. The bar graph will disappear when you pass the liquid level
- Move sensor back in small steps until the bar graph reappears. The exact point between the bar graph disappearing and reappearing is your liquid level
How do I calculate the liquid level in my tank?
The Portalevel® MAX Marine electronic gas level indicator allows the crew to be in charge of checking the high press CO2 systems, as many times as needed: ensuring that the systems will be working when they are needed.
- ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine level ultrasonic sensor is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large fire suppression agent systems of up to 600 cylinders.
- The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
- Coltraco’s high quality innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonic level measurement, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.
Combined with the MAX Marine surveying equipment, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR is an advanced application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on a Portalevel® device into the agent weight/mass. The Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be as part of a fire system inspection. Portasteele® CALCULATOR converts the liquid level tank readings into a weight measurement, logging the recorded data with easy exporting via email. By reducing time needed for reports, more time can be spent on ensuring the safety of the vessel.